42,000 Afghan refugees return home this year: UNHCR

July 09, 2015

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Afghan refugees walk in a refugee camp on the outskirts of Peshawar. –Reuters/File
Afghan refugees walk in a refugee camp on the outskirts of Peshawar. –Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: A total of 42,000 Afghan refugees have returned to Afghanistan during 2015, said an official of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Pakistan on Thursday.

Talking to APP, he said 22,000 refugees had been repatriated from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and the rest returned from other areas of Pakistan.

The UNHCR official appreciated the government and people of Pakistan for generously hosting the world's largest protracted refugees population for nearly four decades.

Pakistan is host to almost 1.6 million registered Afghan refugees as of now, added the UNHCR official.

Since 2002, UNHCR has facilitated the return of 3.8 million registered Afghans from Pakistan. UNHCR has again urged the international community to increase their engagement for voluntary repatriation under the UNHCR assisted voluntary repatriation programme.

"UNHCR will continue to jointly develop mutually reinforcing plans for phased voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees to their homeland and for their management in Pakistan in line with the absorption capacity in Afghanistan and the realities on the ground," added the UNHCR official.

After the Army Public School (APS) attack in December last year, the repatriation of Afghan refugees has spiked. Around 3,000 to 4,000 refugees left for Afghanistan each month from January to March this year; during the same time period in 2014 (January to March), a total of 761 refugees had left Pakistan for Afghanistan.

The most popular province of asylum for refugees is KP, with 52pc of refugees settling in both urban and rural areas of the province. Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) is the next popular option, followed by Punjab, with 25pc and 23pc of refugees settling in these regions, respectively.

Take a look: Most Afghan refugees return home due to fear of arrest, harassment.